This is Part 5 of my Pregnancy & Autoimmune Disease Series. The other posts in this series include:
I’ll set the stage in a bullet point timeline:
- Pregnant with our third child.
- Had to switch doctors around 32 weeks, and also switched from a hospital to a birthing center connected to a hospital. We actually came very close to deciding on a home birth but it just didn’t seem like the best option at the time, for a variety of reasons.
- Multiple people, including my doctors, told me “Oh, it’s your third baby. This one will be easier than the first two. Your labor will definitely be quick, so stay close by and I can’t see you going far past your due date…” And so on and so forth with rainbows and unicorns dancing around me. Aside from my mom giving her intense labor experience with my brother (her third baby), the ONLY person who did not tell me this was my doula. Bless her. She simply said “The third baby is the wild card… you really don’t know what you’re going to get.”
- On that note, this was the first time we hired a doula.
- You should know that my first labor was 36 hours. I delivered on my due date. My second labor was 18 hours (it would have been longer had I not allowed my doctor to intervene so heavily with Pitocin), and I delivered 3 days before my due date.
- Due to the experiences of my first and second labors, we learned a lot, and wanted to feel more in control with the decisions we would make regarding this third labor.
- We prayed HARD (like 54-day Rosary novena hard) for the labor of our dreams. I made a list actually. We very rarely say such specific, detailed prayers, but I really wanted to be clear on what the labor of our dreams meant – no Pitocin induction, short in duration, free of complications, and from all the pressure of nurses and doctors scolding us for not following what they thought was best.
Welp. God has a great sense of humor. In the most convoluted way, we actually did get a labor we thoroughly enjoyed (aside from the pain obviously). And the majority of our prayers were answered. All except the “short in duration” part.
By the time I delivered the babe, I was 2 full weeks past my due date (42 weeks). My labor was 42 hours long. One hour for each week of pregnancy. Cool stat.
There I am in all my late pregnancy glory. And yes, that is a dustbuster with a glove on top to the right. That is how I trap scary bugs.
My Third Baby Birth Story: How It All Began
So, let’s circle back to my final doctor’s appointment, which was on a Tuesday. My doctor stared at me, amazed that I’m not in labor yet, and said “Well, that baby needs to come out by Friday (42 weeks), otherwise you’ll risk out of the birthing center.”
He said next steps would be to bring me in to the birthing center Wednesday evening or Thursday morning and do a “soft, birthing center induction.”
What does that entail exactly?
A membrane sweep. Maybe even multiple. And castor oil. Lots of it. And we all know what castor oil means…
So I said “Hold on, why do I have to be in the birthing center to do this? If I am going to be on the toilet (in the worst way) for an extraordinary amount of time, I’d rather just do it in my own home.”
He agreed. Did a membrane sweep and I went on my way to buy some castor oil and some green juice to go with it. Came home, mixed up about 2 oz with the juice and drank it down. I expected to gag, but really… I didn’t notice any taste, and the oil mixed well with the juice to where I didn’t notice much of a texture difference either. Not bad for my first 2 oz.
Hesitantly went for a walk. Stayed close by just in case. But, nothing, even after 4 hours. Sigh. Headed back into the house for another 2 oz.
I think there was a brief moment on the toilet, but nothing out of the ordinary. Around 10pm, Frank and I got into bed, and within about 20 minutes, I started feeling some contractions.
“Nah, just more Braxton Hicks”
“Oh wait, that one kind of felt more intense.”
“Okay, I might need to get up and walk this one out.”
“I am feeling a lot of pressure down there. Like A LOT.”
I burst into the room and told Frank it was time. He called my mom and the doula as I paced around our house, reminding myself to BBRRREEAATTHHHEEE through the contractions and relax so the contraction could do its thing. I didn’t want any wasted contractions.
Did I mention these were really intense? They were. In fact, I thought I was going to have the baby right there.
Funny thing about castor oil… it can play those tricks on you. Apparently, these were “castor oil contractions”, and they can sometimes feel way more intense than what they actually are. But they at least did something because once we got to the birthing center, I was at around 3-4cm.
Now, this is actually quite victorious for me. I have a history of labor starting with transition-like contractions and arriving at the hospital at barely even a one. I think one time, I even went backwards from a 1 to barely a 1 a few hours later. So, I was ecstatic to be at a 3, and it was enough for them to admit me into the center (I was the only one there at the time, otherwise they may have sent me home until I was further along.)
The Birthing Center
The First 14 Hours
So, there we were, in our little birthing center safe haven, complete with yoga balls, bed, hot tub (with jets), shower, and a nice long hallway to pace up and down. Since I was already at a 3, I thought that this labor was *definitely* going to be shorter than my other two, and I really focused on using each contraction to the fullest.
Eventually we set into a routine that involved walking up and down the hallway for a half hour, followed by bouncing on the ball, and then standing in the shower for a bit until it was time to walk again. This went on from about 11pm at night until about 5am in the morning, in which case I asked to be checked again.
Still a 3-4. I was crushed, but not necessarily discouraged.
Frank, by the way, through all of this was the BEST. Totally engaged, present, and supportive in every way. I am very grateful for that. – Frank did not edit this comment in either (but did add this clarifying comment for the doubters).
The Second 14 Hours
The second 14 hours of labor looked very similar to the first 14 hours of labor (imagine that). I walked, bounced, showered, laid with the peanut ball, and even sat in the tub but it slowed contractions too much. I welcomed the break, though, because I was starting to get exhausted.
I ate and drank to stay energized.
I asked to get checked again and if I remember correctly, I was at a 6. So, a little progress, but not enough to make us think this baby was going to come out any time soon. I started to get concerned.
At this point, I was about 24 hours into labor, and hadn’t slept in 36 hours. Our doula was at a homebirth all day, but came after. It was 9-10pm on Wednesday night.
When she arrived, she suggested some really, realllllllllllllllllllllly comfortable positions (can you feel my sarcasm?) to help get our daughter in the right position for birth. We had a feeling she might be stuck.
So, after trying knees-to-chest (frog position… I don’t know the official name) for several contractions, and then trying the birthing stool… something happened. Labor slowed down to just about nothing, and I developed an excruciating pain that radiated from my hip down to my foot. It burned and ached constantly. On top of that, the baby’s heart rate dropped and I needed an IV for fluids.
So, into the bed I went, with one leg up on the peanut ball, and IV fluids. Heart rate went back up and I fell asleep for 3 glorious, contraction-free hours.
That was the end of the second 14 hours. And although it only took me about a minute to type out this section, it did not actually feel that quick in real life.
The Final 14 Hours
When I woke up, I felt a little boost of energy but knew my time was short. My doctor was on-call that day at the hospital, which meant he would be close-by all day long. He stopped by early Thursday morning to check and I was about an 8.
We decided to break my water (it ran clear, so we didn’t have any concerns with meconium which would’ve required a transfer to the hospital), and in that process, he was able to tell that the baby was just not in the right position or engaged.
This was when things started to get unbearable. Breaking my water started the contractions right back up, and I was reminded quickly that 3 hours of sleep isn’t necessarily enough to recharge the batteries. I was still flat-out exhausted.
I mustered up as much energy as I could to breathe and work with every contraction. I prayed. I tried all these positions like side-lying and something called the Flying Cowgirl (who names these things?).
I ignored the new nurse who was literally yelling in my ear to breathe through the contraction (which I’m pretty sure I had a handle on since I’d been doing it for over a day and a half now). And then I sat in the tub to give myself a break from the unbearable, burning pain in my hip and leg.
Then the nurse came charging in to scold me for sitting in the tub because it “WOULD SLOW DOWN LABOR,” I looked at Frank and cried – “I’m done.”
Transferring to the Hospital from the Birthing Center
My doctor stopped by and agreed that a hospital transfer might actually help at this point. An epidural would give my body a chance to truly rest. As much as I wanted to avoid it, I welcomed it at this point – anything to help my hip and leg pain.
Within 20 minutes, we moved to the labor and delivery ward, which took less than a minute to walk to, and one of the most amazing nurses saw (and heard) how uncomfortable I was. She dropped what she was doing to get an IV started ASAP and ordered the epidural.
I know the power of an epidural, and was looking forward to a break from the pain. As soon as I got it, my doctor popped in and dropped the end of the bed, propped my knees up to the side in a frog-like position, and said “Get some rest and hopefully this will help the baby drop.”
Only problem? The epidural didn’t take away the pain. It helped with contractions but the pain in my hip and leg was excruciating, and getting worse. I stayed in that position for 2 hours though (didn’t sleep), just hoping we would make some progress.
The doctor came back to our room to check, and I was at a 10, but the baby still hadn’t budged. He reached in to try to turn her and that’s when it became abundantly clear that she was stuck near the right side of my pelvis, directly on the nerve that was causing all my hip and leg pain.
So. Much. Pain.
He wanted to see if he could work with some pushing and contractions to move her. I pushed for about 3 contractions and he still wasn’t able to do it. Suddenly, he stopped, stood up and simply said “Keep trying.”And left.
So, now, I’m thinking he’s going to get the c-section prepped because there is just no way this baby is coming out. We tried all the positions. I’m at a 10 and in hour 41 of labor. Clearly, this is just not working. I am incredibly disheartened to have made it all this way only to end up in a c-section that’s going to take weeks to recover from, all while having to care for the other two kids at home.
I prayed during that moment, HARD. Why, God? Why would you put me through all of this just to end up in the scenario I desired the least??
The Final Hour
Well, first, I was wrong. My doctor didn’t go get a c-section prepped. He actually rallied together six nurses and came into the room, suggesting we try a “new position”. I was kind of confused as to why we needed a team of nurses to do this, but then it became abundantly clear.
The position was called “Walcher’s”. The nurses put a foam roller under my lower back, dropped the end of the bed (like ALL the way), and let my legs drop, while holding me to make sure I didn’t just slide off the bed.
This is what I looked like…
This position was so amazing. “Why didn’t we do this from the start?” I asked.
I know it looks crazy, and it is crazy, but it instantly relieved my hip and leg pain. For the first time in several hours, I finally had the relief even the epidural couldn’t provide. I kept asking the nurses, “Can I just stay like this forever?”
I had a feeling that we were on to something because I knew our daughter was stuck where that nerve was. It was a good sign to feel relief because it obviously relieved the pressure somehow, indicating the baby moved. And, I was right.
It took just two contractions before I had the feeling I had to poop. I rejoiced! I said “I feel like I have to poop! I know I don’t actually have to, but I feel like I have to!” The nurses cheered! The doctor said “Amazing!” Because we all knew that the poop feeling leads to the birth of the baby.
One more push and she was out. Thank the Lord! She was healthy, beautiful, and had a really wonky head shape… it was very clear what portion of her head was stuck based on the shape lol.
Note to self – try Walcher’s earlier next time.
What I Learned and Gained From This Experience
My dream birth would’ve been MUCH shorter, and I wouldn’t have needed Pitocin, an epidural, or any other interventions. I really was after a natural birth, not only from a health perspective, but also because I know our bodies are designed to do this, and I wanted to experience that in the fullest.
My first two births were so intervention-heavy, and I often wonder if we had just let them be natural, if maybe I wouldn’t have had complications (like hemorrhaging).
On top of that, I really didn’t feel in complete control of all our decisions for our first two births. For this birth, I wanted to feel in charge, and know that every intervention we used was carefully considered and used only if absolutely needed.
This birth checked that box. Yes, it was long, exhausting, painful, and surprisingly FUN – lots of laughs since there was an insane amount of downtime.
Yes, I used interventions I wish I could’ve stayed away from. But, I felt totally confident in making that decision to transfer to the hospital and use it when I really, truly needed it. I really felt, in this circumstance, that the epidural was actually a tool that could help me give birth, rather than just numb the pain.
But best of all, was that God led me to a new doctor late in my pregnancy. Initially, I was bummed about it because I loved my old OB. But knowing what I know now about how stuck our daughter was, I know deep down, that I would’ve ended up in a c-section if I was under the care of someone else. My new doctor was incredibly patient, attentive, and tried hard to give me the birth I wanted.
After delivery, I thanked him for gathering those nurses together and not giving up. He said “When my wife gave birth, I watched the doctors go against her wishes. I never want to be that doctor. I always try my hardest to provide the birth experience my patients want.”
And that, my friend, is a definition of an awesome doctor.
The rest of our stay at the hospital was great. Within a day of giving birth, I finally was able to go home and be with the rest of the fam and quickly learned that 3 kids is chaos, but also so much fun.
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!